To Pius IX

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

The cannon's brazen lips are cold;
No red shell blazes down the air;
And street and tower, and temple old,
Are silent as despair.
The Lombard stands no more at bay,
Rome's fresh young life has bled in vain;
The ravens scattered by the day
Come back with night again.
Now, while the fratricides of France
Are treading on the neck of Rome,
Hider at Gaeta, seize thy chance!
Coward and cruel, come!
Creep now from Naples' bloody skirt;
Thy mummer's part was acted well,
While Rome, with steel and fire begirt,
Before thy crusade fell!
Her death-groans answered to thy prayer;
Thy chant, the drum and bugle-call;
Thy lights, the burning villa's glare;
Thy beads, the shell and ball!
Let Austria clear thy way, with hands
Foul from Ancona's cruel sack,
And Naples, with his dastard bands
Of murderers, lead thee back!
Rome's lips are dumb; the orphan's wail,
The mother's shriek, thou mayst not hear
Above the faithless Frenchman's hail,
The unsexed shaveling's cheer!
Go, bind on Rome her cast-off weight,
The double curse of crook and crown,
Though woman's scorn and manhood's hate
From wall and roof flash down!
Nor heed those blood-stains on the wall,
Not Tiber's flood can wash away,
Where, in thy stately Quirinal,
Thy mangled victims lay!
Let the world murmur; let its cry
Of horror and disgust be heard;
Truth stands alone; thy coward lie
Is backed by lance and sword!
The cannon of St. Angelo,
And chanting priest and clanging bell,
And beat of drum and bugle blow,
Shall greet thy coming well!
Let lips of iron and tongues of slaves
Fit welcome give thee; for her part,
Rome, frowning o'er her new-made graves,
Shall curse thee from her heart!
No wreaths of sad Campagna's flowers
Shall childhood in thy pathway fling;
No garlands from their ravaged bowers
Shall Terni's maidens bring;
But, hateful as that tyrant old,
The mocking witness of his crime,
In thee shall loathing eyes behold
The Nero of our time!
Stand where Rome's blood was freest shed,
Mock Heaven with impious thanks, and call
Its curses on the patriot dead,
Its blessings on the Gaul!
Or sit upon thy throne of lies,
A poor, mean idol, blood-besmeared,
Whom even its worshippers despise,
Unhonored, unrevered!
Yet, Scandal of the World! from thee
One needful truth mankind shall learn:
That kings and priests to Liberty
And God are false in turn.
Earth wearies of them; and the long
Meek sufferance of the Heavens doth fail;
Woe for weak tyrants, when the strong
Wake, struggle, and prevail!
Not vainly Roman hearts have bled
To feed the, Crosier and the Crown,
If, roused thereby, the world shall tread
The twin-born vampires down!

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